This study investigates the challenges to implementing the Arts-Integrated Learning approach into existing curricula in India, and the degree and extent to which students feel safe in expressing their beliefs, thoughts and opinions within the classroom. Focusing on English language classes in two schools affiliated to India’s Central Board of Secondary Education, the study outlines the challenges that arise when high school students do not perceive their classroom as a safe space, i.e. a space from within which to volunteer their participation through free and authentic expression, while also tackling challenging topics (Holley and Steiner, 2005). Drawing on the experiences of students and teachers through qualitative methodology that includes classroom observations, interviews and descriptive statistics based on the Teaching With the Arts Survey (Oreck, 2006), the study employs an exploratory approach toward the concept of safe-spaces within the Indian high school classroom. This is an especially relevant area of study considering the Indian academic setting, where teacher-oriented practices tend to dominate instruction and delivery. Since this is an ongoing study, preliminary findings will be shared based on the data currently being gathered. Preliminary findings suggest multiple obstacles to student self-expression in the absence of a classroom safe space, involving both student self-image and teacher beliefs, as well as an overriding emphasis on the curriculum, which takes precedence over classroom discussions. In addition, the preliminary findings offer a window into the challenges faced by teachers and students when teaching and learning through online classes held during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Riya Kartha, Soka University of Japan, Japan